Becoming jaded is I think my biggest fear about living and working in the bush.

I would hate to think that I might ever get bored of spending time with a pride of lions or might not want to get off the vehicle to follow fresh tracks of a leopard. It is only natural for things to lose their sparkle slightly as you are exposed to them more and more, but the moment one doesn’t actively want to be doing what you are there to do and started off loving, is probably when it’s time to move on.

A good friend of mine who was a ranger at Londolozi and one of my early mentors, was in tears when he left the bush to move to Johannesburg to start his own business, and I remember asking him why he would want to leave when he was so upset about it. His answer has stayed with me, as he told me he didn’t want to go, but knew he should leave while he still loved what he was doing.
It would have been an utter shame to leave because he was tired of it.

It’s always best to leave something while you’re still loving what you do.

Which makes one asks the question about one’s longevity in the bush. Some people want to do two years and then go back to a corporate career. Some stay longer as they realise how much they love it and some stay for life. I think many people who fall into the latter two categories don’t start out in them, but simply fall more and more in love with the lifestyle; the sense of community, co-existing with like-minded people who share the same passions, and the daily refreshment of the soul to be found in nature’s abundance are all intoxicating. I have never been one to think too far into the future, but if you had asked me on the day I started at Londolozi whether I would still be here 8 years later, my answer would most likely have been an emphatic, “No”.

Not because I wouldn’t want to be, but I think because at the time I wouldn’t have believed that I could still be so passionate about what I was doing and where I was doing it after that long.

Time with people that share a passion will always be immensely valuable. Rangers from three different lodges embark on a two day walk following the Sand River. Photograph by Adam Bannister.

The beauty of the industry is its own evolution, and the fact that there are infinitely more avenues to go down these days than there ever were in its early days.

In the 1980s there would have been front-of-house, ranger, chef and one or two more jobs one could do, but partly owing to the small scale of most operations and the more limited bush experience they would have been able to offer at the time, there just wouldn’t have been much more scope for other jobs.

Nowadays things have changed. Apart from guiding and managing camps, or some of the other employment positions that still form the backbone of the lodge industry, there are accountants living in the bush, on-site doctors, media teams, therapists, full-time teachers and far too many others to name here.

With the growth of the industry have come more and more possibilities and more and more people determined to make a life in the bush. Also, with the growth of what in effect are bush communities that encompass multiple lodges, has come the need for services to cater for those communities, which in turn has provided more options for people to pursue a bush lifestyle.

It is no longer just a career as a ranger or camp manager that people can pursue in order to live and work in the bush.

The dream of living permanently in the bush, a dream that many have given up all in order to realise, is out there.

It can be fleeting, as there are always new dreams, but when I think of why I started writing this in the first place, I’m sure it has something to with the fact that so many of the people I engage with on a day-to-day basis (I’m talking about the Londolozi staff here) are dream-chasers.

The camp managers, the massage therapists, the rangers… all have said to themselves at some point, “I wish I could live and work in the bush.” And here they are.

I remember one particular incident during my training period, when fellow trainee Dan Buys and I had had quite a late night entertaining guests, then a 4:00am start to clean the vehicle and get it ready for game drive. We had just left Founders Camp deck after serving morning coffee and were on our way back to the Rangers Room when monkeys started alarming above the river.

The Nanga female and her two cubs on the banks of the Manyelethi river. This should never fail to excite you.

Dan and I knew that the monkeys must have seen a leopard, but given that we were focusing specifically on leopards during that period in our training and had enjoyed a spate of amazing sightings as a result, we hesitated before returning to Founders deck, both being pretty tired and just determined to get on with the day. Then the call came in over the radio that the leopard was visible on the big granite boulders in the river.

Looking at each other, we immediately felt guilty that we had even for a second debated whether or not to go back. We knew then, that the moment we didn’t want to go and see a leopard was the moment we should leave the bush.

Thankfully, that moment has yet to come.

About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

View James's profile

8 Comments

on Should One Ever Leave the Bush?

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Marinda Drake

Lovely blog James. Even when the time come to leave the bush your heart will always be in it. It is a special place.

Callum Evans

Definitely food for thought, thank you for posting this.

Callum Evans

I have been dreaming about living and working in the bush since I officially moved back to South Africa from England when I was 9. The lowveld has always been a part of pysche long before my first (and so far only) visit to Kruger when I was 14. Despite my lack of visits there, I have read so much about it and seen so many photographs from there that my love of the bush has only increased exponeintially. My brain is screaming at me to get out of Cape Town, away from the city and all of the pitfalls and temptations of a capitalist/consumerist society. I feel like it’s slowly suffocating me (though I can’t leave until I finish my degree). Whenever I got hiking in the Cape mountains, birding in the Garden Route and go on a roadtrip through Botswana, that’s when I feel like I’m the best version of myself. I want to do what I love in a place that I love, plus living with leopards (my favourite animal) is also another key driving factor.

Phil Schultz

James, I work an office job, but it is not my passion. My passion is travel and rarely a day passes that my mind doesn’t drift to my next destination or some destination past. I think I was in my mid-30s when I really understood this about myself. Had I realized it at a younger age, I have little doubt that I would’ve sought a profession much like yours. Even now sometimes I consider the possibility of changing careers at 50 applying fo a job as a guide on an expedition cruise or dare I say safari guide either of which would fall into the category of finding a job that you love. I’d be the first to agree that doing anything for an extended period of time dulls the luster of even the most seemingly perfect occupations, but as someone who thinks he understands the draw to all things wild and wonderful, I think you have the perfect job

Judith Guffey

1981-1985……BUSH CAMP. Lex and Lyn ran the whole show. Wonderful memories of that small camp!

Denise Vouri

When it becomes a “job” and no longer feeds your passion for learning, sharing and teaching, you will make a decision as to your future. I’m hoping you’ll still be there when I visit your special kingdom.

Mj Bradley

I hope the day for your departure is still many years in the future!
Thank you for the wonderful Blog

Irene Nathanson

What a wonderful blog James. I am fortunate to have experienced your passion for what you do first hand. I heard it in your voice, the way you captured photos and the way you related to me as a guest when you guided me on drive. I have seen it continue over the years when I see you during my visits. Your storytelling through your photos and your words gives me chills. I particularly love this one. Your heartfelt sentiments are truly conveyed. I hope it is never-ending.

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